“Was the election moved to next month, or June? We ask because President Obama’s extraordinary response to Paul Ryan’s budget yesterday—with its blistering partisanship and multiple distortions—was the kind Presidents usually outsource to some junior lieutenant. Mr. Obama’s fundamentally political document would have been unusual even for a Vice President in the fervor of a campaign…

“Mr. Obama did not deign to propose an alternative to rival Mr. Ryan’s plan, even as he categorically rejected all its reform ideas, repeatedly vilifying them as un-American. ‘Their vision is less about reducing the deficit than it is about changing the basic social compact in America,’ he said, supposedly pitting ‘children with autism or Down’s syndrome’ against ‘every millionaire and billionaire in our society.’ The President was not attempting to join the debate Mr. Ryan has started, but to close it off just as it begins and annihilate any possibility of good-faith cooperation…

“The inflection point now is how to update the 20th-century entitlement state so that it is affordable. With incremental change, Mr. Ryan is trying maintain a social safety net and the economic growth necessary to finance it. Mr. Obama presented what some might call the false choice of merely preserving the government we have with no realistic plan for doing so, aside from proposing $4 trillion in phantom deficit reduction over a gimmicky 12-year budget window that makes that reduction seem larger than it really is.”

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“Style: I liked the way Obama made a case for government at the beginning. I liked the way he accused Republicans of pessimism, of abandoning a hopeful vision of America. Good that he went after the Ryan plan — and good that he went after the cruelty of that plan. If you ask me, too many percentages. Oh, and whichever speechwriter came up with “win the future” should be sent to count yurts in Outer Mongolia.

“Substance: Much better than many of us feared. Hardly any Bowles-Simpson — yay!…

“Overall, way better than the rumors and trial balloons. I can live with this. And whatever the pundits may say, it was much, much more serious than the Ryan ‘plan’.”

***
“There was no sign of anything worth calling a plan to curb borrowing faster than in the budget. He offered no more than a list of headings under which $4 trillion of deficit reduction (including the $2 trillion already in his budget) might be found–domestic non-security spending, defense, health costs, and tax reform. Fine, sure. But what he said was devoid of detail. He spent more of his time stressing what he would not agree to than describing clear proposals of his own.

“His rebuttal of the Ryan plan was all very well–I agree it’s no good–but the administration still lacks a rival plan. That, surely, is what this speech had to provide, or at least point to, if it was going to be worth giving in the first place. His criticisms of Ryan and the Republicans need no restating. And did the country need another defense of public investment in clean energy and the American social contract? It wanted to be told how fiscal policy is going to be mended: if not by the Ryan plan, with its many grave defects, then how?…

“The speech was more notable for its militant–though ineffectual–hostility to Republican proposals than for any fresh thinking of its own. It was a waste of breath.”

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Via the Daily Caller.